Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWACC) has unanimously approved the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) planning application to site a UK Geoenergy Observatory at Ince Marshes in the north of the county.
This will result in 50 boreholes (housing sensors worth about £2.5 million) being drilled down to 1,200m in a 12km2
The sensors will generate millions of terabytes of data on the chemical, physical and biological properties of the rocks over a 15-year period, providing the knowledge needed to unlock “new clean, green, low-carbon energy technologies”.
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), has commissioned the £31 million Observatory to keep the UK at the forefront of geoscience and energy innovation.
The BGS, which has been providing impartial geological evidence since 1835, will operate the Observatory.
BGS chief scientist Mike Stephenson said (www.bgs.ac.uk
): “More and more of the solutions to decarbonising our energy supply will need to come from beneath our feet.
"The UK Geoenergy Observatory in Cheshire will be a world first in its ability to observe the underground environment so closely and consistently. What we learn in Cheshire should provide a breakthrough in our understanding of how the whole underground system works.”
The bore holes will contain a network of 1,800 seismic sensors that can measure earth tremors 1,000- times weaker than can be physically felt.
They will also allow thousands of water samples to be taken over the next 15 years from between 50 and 400m below the surface.
Meanwhile a second Geoenergy Observatory being drilled in Glasgow (comprising 12 boreholes in a 4km2
area) will allow scientists to assess whether warm water in the UK’s disused mine workings could become a sustainable part of the energy mix.